BOXSET REVIEW: Mudhoney – Real Low Vibe: The Reprise Recordings 1992-1998 (CherryRed Records)
Formed in 1988, Mudhoney were a key part of the grunge scene which emerged out of their home city of Seattle, and their early recordings for the Sub Pop label are among its best-loved releases.
They paved the way for the likes of Nirvana, Soungarden and Pearl Jam, without ever enjoying the same sort of success.
Their sludgy, distorted sound inspired countless grunge and alternative rock musicians, and after second album Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge they were offered a deal by Warner-owned Reprise Records.
Many fans saw the move to a major label as a sell-out, but the years they spent on it did produce some good music, collected for the first time on this 4CD set.
Featuring the classic line-up of Mark Arm (vocals/guitar), Steve Turner (guitar), Matt Lukin (bass) and Dan Peters (drums), the original releases are augmented by bonus tracks, B-sides, EPs, compilation tracks and promo-only releases.
The big attraction for fans will be disc four, which makes the eight live tracks from the 1993 promotional album On Tour Now commercially available for the first time.
Songs like Suck You Dry, Stupid Asshole and No End In Sight demonstrate the power and vitality of Mudhoney as a live band, and why they continue to be a popular live draw today.
1992’s Piece Of Cake, the first album in the set, sticks to the tried and tested garage-punk formula which brought them to the attention of Reprise in the first place.
The Stooges influence is clear, and standout tracks include Suck You Dry, Blinding Sun and Living Wreck.
Released at the peak of grunge, it sold 150,000 copies, and made the Top 40 in the UK, where they always enjoyed more chart success than in the US.
It adds seven tracks from the between-albums EP Five Dollar Bob’s Mock Cooter Stew, but curiously omits Over the Top, the B-side of the Suck You Dry single which was on the 2003 Reprise reissue.
Disc two is 1995’s My Brother the Cow, and though it’s a bit more polished than their earlier work, it does include some fine songs, like Generation Spokesmodel, Into Yer Shtik and 1995.
Due to grunge’s decrease in popularity at this point, the record only sold around 40,000 copies on its initial release. This version comes with a bumper 13 bonus tracks, which more than doubles it in size.
Tomorrow Hit Today, from 1998, was their Reprise swansong, and Arm admits in the sleevenotes that even before they started recording it, they felt it would be their last album for the label.
It sold poorly, shifting just 12,000 copies, as grunge had run its course to all but the diehard fans, but it’s a very enjoyable album which dips a toe into blues-rock, with highlights including Poisoned Water, Oblivion and Night Of The Hunted.
Whether you’re replacing worn-out original albums, a latecomer to Mudhoney, or a completist who wants (almost) everything from this era, this is where to find it. 8/10.